The new space race: NASA fears US is locked in battle for the moon with China

US China Moon Rivals
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceship onto a Long March-2F carrier rocket prepares to be transferred to the launching area of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, Oct. 7, 2021. (Wang Jiangbo/Xinhua via AP, File)

The new space race: NASA fears US is locked in battle for the moon with China

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The head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expressed concern over China’s space program development, saying that the United States is locked in a new space race.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson warned in an interview with Politico that China’s rapidly advancing capabilities in space could see it seize vital parts of the moon, filled with natural resources, and keep the U.S. out.

“It is a fact: we’re in a space race,” Nelson told the outlet. “And it is true that we better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory.’”

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Nelson and other U.S. space agency figures are growing increasingly worried that with its rapid technological progress, China may actually overtake the U.S. in space-faring capabilities.

“It’s entirely possible they could catch up and surpass us, absolutely,” Space Force Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno said last month, according to Reuters. “The progress they’ve made has been stunning — stunningly fast.”

In recent years, China has landed robotic probes on the moon to collect samples, including a historical first when it landed a probe on the far side of the moon. It also recently launched its own independent space station. Alongside these accomplishments come even more ambitious goals, such as plans to land taikonauts on the moon within the decade.

Aside from the scientific dimension, the new space race is every bit as political as its predecessor, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

“On one level, it is a political competition to show whose system works better,” Terry Virts, a former commander of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle, told Politico. “What they really want is respect as the world’s top country. They want to be the dominant power on Earth, so going to the moon is a way to show their system is working. If they beat us back to the moon, it shows they are better than us.”

Political concerns could escalate into security concerns, however, he warned.

“There is potentially mischief China can do on the moon,” he added. “If they set up infrastructure there, they could potentially deny communications, for example. Having them there doesn’t make things easier. There is real concern about Chinese meddling.”

China denies all accusations of malicious intent, accusing the U.S. of scaremongering.

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“Outer space is not a wrestling ground,” Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said in a statement to Politico. “The exploration and peaceful uses of outer space is humanity’s common endeavor and should benefit all. China always advocates the peaceful use of outer space, opposes the weaponization of and arms race in outer space, and works actively toward building a community with a shared future for mankind in the space domain.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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